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Grammar Mishaps: Good vs. Well

Good or Well?

The general rule with good and well is that well is an adverb and good is an adjective. What this means is that well modifies verbs, adjectives and other adverbs and good modifies nouns.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule just to keep us on our toes. "Well" may be used when describing if something is proper, healthy or suitable. As in, "I am well (healthy) today."


  1. That is a good song. (Good is modifying the noun, song.)
  2. You sang the song very well. (Well is modifying the verb, sang.)
  3. The bike is pedaling well. (Well is modifying the verb, pedaling.
  4. The car is in good shape. (Good is modifying the noun, car.)


One exception is with the use of verbs of sensation like touch, feel, looks, hears, and smells. It would be proper to say, "The cake smells good." To say that the cake smells well would imply that the cake has a nose that can smell appropriately. So, to add more confusion, it is also correct to say, "I feel good today." Good refers to how you are physically and spiritually feeling.

How are you feeling?

I feel good. (Think of James Brown's "I Feel Good".)

How are you?

I am well, thank you.

Any thoughts, comments or questions?

reemo on March 11, 2012:

Thanks for your valuable information , but can you tell me please what is the difference between be good at and do well as

Kristina on September 23, 2011:

Should I tell someone to "do good at your game" or "do well at your game"?

Patricia on September 15, 2011:

What are the rules for doing well vs. Going well.

JonnyRichta on September 14, 2011:

2 things:

First off, the part about how a cake smells has an implication: "The cake smells [like it is] good." 'good' being appropriate because 'is' is a 'to be' verb, which is what adjectives are use for. E.g.: "The good man is good".

Also, the last part where you distinguish the difference by saying:

"How are you?"

"I am well"

Scroll to Continue

Whereas 'well' is appropriate here, 'good' works also because the question addresses a state of being. However, if I asked, "how are you DOING?" you would say, "I am doing well."

Because as we know, Superman does good, you do well.

Hope that helps!

Tom on November 10, 2010:

Isn't it also the case that "well" is a state of being, so a cake can't be well because it does not have varying states of being.

hannah on October 15, 2010:

"The car is in good shape"

Wrong. It modifies shape.

Dogger on September 09, 2010:

i like this english website thang keep me on my tows

Steve on July 19, 2010:

Someone once told me in the military a junior would respond with very well to a senior and the senior would respond with very good to a junior.

Karen on June 28, 2010:

Which of these is correct:

I slept well.

I slept good.

iteach3rs on May 29, 2010:

On a recent field trip, I asked one of my students how they were doing- to which they replied, "I'm good". I proceeded to correct them (gently) and reminded them that "I am well" is proper grammar. About this time, my principal (who was along on the trip) proceeded to give me a mini lesson about how "am" is a linking verb and therefore it wouldn't be proper grammar unless you said, "I am doing well". While I agree that "I am doing well" is acceptable, my question to you is was I incorrect in saying "I am well"? Thanks for the clarification! :)

ann is dumb on May 27, 2010:

we'll means we will. you would not start a sentence with "we will, if you asked me yesterday i would have said..." you start it with "well, if you asked me yesterday..."

Flingwing on February 05, 2010:

Your explanation is incorrect:

"The car is in good shape. (Good is modifying the noun, car)".

"Good is modifying the noun "shape". Shape here is a synonym for "condition". Condition is the name of an attribute. So good should modify that noun, shape.

No charge :-)

david on January 06, 2010:

referring to my wrestling performance "...I might as well do good." or "...I might as well do well"?

Tim on August 11, 2009:

I reckon I should have said "was both 'good' and 'deserved,'" rather than "were both 'good' and 'deserved,'" since the trip was in the past. But I'm sure that's covered in a different topic. "If I were you, I'd..." is okay. "If I was late for the meeting last week..." is correct, too. Okay, I'll go home now.

Tim Cherepko on August 11, 2009:

Jim, should help. It should be well-deserved. "Well-deserved" is describing the trip. If the trip were both "good" and "deserved," you could say that he took a good, deserved trip.

Jim on August 10, 2009:

He is acting well but he is being good. What's the difference?

"He took a well deserved trip." Doesn't well describe trip? Shouldn't this be "a good deserved trip?"

Ann on July 19, 2009:

I want to know in dialogue when you start a sentence with 'well' as in "Well, if you asked me that yesterday I would have said..." Is that Well or We'll?

antiGabe on May 26, 2009:


You prove that "I am good" is a grammatically complete sentence, but you do not prove its application. As stated before, "I am good" is a legitimate sentence, but it isn't "hyper-correction" to change to well.

"I am evil," said Steve.

"Oh really? I am good," said Luke.

"I am a bit under the weather this morning," said Steve.

"That's unfortunate. I am well,' said Luke.

Using "well" to describe your state of being is correct. Using "good" to describe your state of being works in general conversation, but is ambiguous. You're not really saying what you mean to when you use "good."

Michael on May 04, 2009:

You could say that "Somebody did good" if you meant good as in like community service. Someone can do good for the community. I assume in that case good could be a noun. is that correct?

Brad on April 20, 2009:

See above. I think it's a good argument for "I am good."

voldemort on March 20, 2009:

hahahahaha. THANK U SO MUCH!!!! i needed this rly bad 4 a skool prjct so u are a life saver!! no joke. now my essays gonna be good and im gonna do well in englich this semester! haha

Susie on March 14, 2009:

My elementary teacher used to always teach us- "People ARE good and they DO things well".

Mike on February 11, 2009:

"Look" and "Feel" both have an active and passive meaning. It would be correct to say "I feel well with my hands" (active) or "I feel good, better than yesterday when I was sick" (passive). Likewise you can "look well" when using your eyes (active, though that sounds awkward) but my significant other "looks good" (passive).

I am under the impression that there are other verbs with the same active/passive distinction, though I cannot think of them. But it is the active/passive distinction that that determines whether the verb is modified with an adjective (passive) or an adverb (active).

The verb "am" is less clear to me if it is active or passive; both "I am well" or "I am good" sound right to me, though I think "I am good" is used more after a question like "Would you like more desert?"

Rachael on February 09, 2009:

Saying "I get paid WELL." is better than saying "I get paid GOOD." Correct?

Yza on December 16, 2008:

Very nice explanation.

Gabe on August 09, 2008:

In the sentence "I am good", [am] is a linking verb; therefore, [good] is thusly a predicate adjective. Just like we say 'the car is red' (not redly)... or 'the emo-boy is sad' (not sadly). Likewise, there's no need to hyper-correct 'good' with 'well'.

I'm good is perfectly fine, just like the sky is blue, the clouds are white, and pedants are pissed. ;-)

Adam on July 14, 2008:


About your concerns; I think that 'we heard it perfectly' is correct because in this instance, perfectly, an adverb, is describing the past-tense verb, heard.

"How did you hear the music? Perfectly. We heard it perfectly."

I don't know if that was what you were looking for and I'm only a burgeoning young grammist (see?). I hope that answered your question.

David on July 02, 2008:

what about the statement "Make sure you brush your teeth well (or good)"

Vitali on June 29, 2008:

Fantastic site! An exercise I completed on another site had the following two answers as being correct:

1. The gas smelled dangerous.

2. We heard it perfectly.

This suggests to me that to hear is not a verb of appearance; otherwise the adjective perfect would have been appropriate to use.

Any ideas?

pati on June 13, 2008:

you did a good job, "good" being an adjective describing job (a noun) but you did well, "well" being an adv. modifying the verb "did"

Ian on May 27, 2008:

I'm curious about the use of "good" with variations of the word "do". A specific question I have is about the use of the word "good" in the following sentance :

"How did he do?"

He did pretty good.

It sounds a little off, maybe it's just bad grammer. But what about when you add to the sentance:

He did a good job.

It wouldn't be "He did a well job". But does the addition of the word "a" change the structure of the sentance?

Jake on April 28, 2008:

It would be correct to say "I have a good education" because "good" is modifying (or enhancing) the noun "education."

I am just a wandering stranger, but I figured I would answer that question quick.

Kudos on this page Jonathon.

kate on April 05, 2008:

hi nice site

im horrible at grammer so when i have a Question i will ask it! Would you say "I have a well education.", or, "I have a good education."

Chris on July 30, 2007:

That is the best response to my question yet! I've been to ten different websites trying to figure out this question of well vs. good. Thank you, Jonathan VS!

Jonathon VS on May 31, 2007:

Andrea, it depends on what you are trying to describe. If you say, "I feel well," that could mean that you knew how to feel things skillfully. Rather, you would say, "I feel good," because you are describing yourself, not "feel."

Similarly, if you say, "I am good," it could mean that you are stating that you are not evil, but good. However, if you say, "I am well," you eliminate all ambiguity, because the only way anyone could construe that sentence is that you are healthy and feeling okay (unless they are ungifted in English and think you are stating that you are a well).

At the end of the day, it's just as much about what makes sense as what is proper grammar. I hope that answers your question.

Andrea Cianci on April 04, 2007:

How come you can answer "How are you feeling" with"I am feeling good", but cannot answer "How are you?" with "I'm good."????

still trying to clarify on January 11, 2007:

Since I can only think of one person who would be exceptional in "feeling" I will use this example. If someone asked Helen Keller "How are you?" she would reply "I am well" (or, if the opposite was true, "I am sick") If someone asked her, "How do you feel?" she would exercize her nimble fingers, smile, and say "I feel good!" thus explaining how good she is at feeling. Would this be accurate?

angel on November 08, 2006:

watz popin i be that one and only angel holla back at me

angel on November 08, 2006:

watz popin i be that one and only angel holla back at me

angel on November 08, 2006:

watz popin i be that one and only angel holla back at me

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 27, 2006:

Thanks xmans! I look forward to reading more of your hubs about China!

xmans from Guangzhou on October 27, 2006:

You baby is so lovely and I am glad to be your friends

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 24, 2006:

Thanks, Urban Aspirations. I like that Hubpages has a lot of different sides too, not just rants. I look forward to hearing more about your non-profit!

Urban Aspirations on October 24, 2006:

Enter a comment This is my first time so be gentle with me. I like the fact I can go on line and get lessons in gramar. I find this hub kind of refreshing compared to all the ranting and raging I ussually read on blogs. I just became a member and I am a fan of yours already. Keepm up the excellent work. My hub will more than likely contain info about my new upstart non profit organization "Urban Aspirations" and Ill probably be shamelessly begging for money or support or more money, I'll try to keep it tastefull and non intrussive fun even.

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on October 09, 2006:

Thanks. That elucidates the nice distinction between precipitate and precipitous.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 08, 2006:

Hi Ralph. I wasn't sure about that one, so I looked it up. The best answer I found is here: Glad to see you're back!


Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on October 08, 2006:

How about "precipitate" vs. "precipitous"? As in yesterday the stock market dropped "precipitately" or "precipitously?"

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